Arts and Culture

For Naomi Wallace, her work as a playwright doesn’t end once a script reaches the stage. Instead, she says it’s her duty to use both her work and her life to address what she believes are systems of oppression and injustice.

In 2007, Wallace was briefly detained by the Department of Homeland Security for openly defying the U.S. travel ban to Cuba. She has written three plays about the conflict in Palestine. And later this month, Wallace will sail from Barcelona to Gaza as a member of the Women’s Boat to Gaza, a naval mission that seeks to oppose the Israeli involvement in Gaza and support Palestinian women.

“Someone might say, ‘Why don’t you just write an essay?’” Wallace says. “But my interest in this is how it affects our intimate relationships with others and how war can have longstanding effects on families.”

Wallace, a Louisville native, has written over 17 plays, including “The Fever Chart: Three Short Visions of the Middle East.” She is also a recipient of the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship. Her plays have been produced at Actor’s Theatre of Louisville and she was commissioned by the theater to write a new play.

Her work often deals with humanizing issues present on the world stage but Wallace says she also wants to bring attention to what she sees as oppression on a different kind of stage. That why she applied to become a member of the Women’s Boat to Gaza.

“I thought perhaps I could bring the perspective of a theater artist,” Wallace says. “Not only that our boat is a small stage heading to Gaza, but to also talk about these other blockades that happen around the issue of Palestine.”

She points to a play called “The Siege,” a Palestinian production that was canceled by The Public Theater in New York City. Here’s a description of the play provided by International Solidarity Movement:

Inspired by the true story of a group of freedom fighters, now exiled across Europe and Gaza, The Siege tells of a moment in history that took place during the height of the second intifada in 2002. The Israeli army had surrounded Bethlehem from the air and on land with snipers, helicopters and tanks, blocking all individuals and goods from coming in or out.

For 39 days, people were living under curfew and on rations, with their supply of water cut and little access to electricity. Along with hundreds of other Palestinians, monks, nuns and ten activists from the International Solidarity Movement, these five freedom fighters took refuge in the Church of the Nativity, one of the holiest sites in the world.

The Women’s Boat to Gaza is an initiative of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition and is composed of civil society organizations and campaigns from many countries. Wallace will be joined by nearly a dozen other women — doctors, lawyers, civil rights activists — from countries all around the world.